What do people buy to eat out-of-home in Britain and where do they buy it?

This summary of our recent published study was written by 12-year old Sophie who was visiting LSHTM for a work experience. We at PHI|Lab think she has done a fantastic job cutting through an academic paper and pulling out the key messages!

Our diets largely influence our health. Diets that contain a high intake of sugars, salts and saturated fats, combined with not much fruit, vegetable and fibre increase the risk of obesity and other diseases.

A recent paper which was published in Social Science & Medicine looked for a correlation between ‘out-of-home’ food expenditure and socio-economic patterning. Kantar Worldpanel (a panel that represents Britain as a nation) records household expenditures at product-level, including food and beverage purchased to be eaten out-of-home. 9,703 respondents, from 8,326 households took part in a 2 and ½ year course where they recorded purchases made. The options of the outlet classification were four groups – cafes & restaurants, takeaway & fast-food outlets, supermarkets & convenience stores and ‘other’ outlets. The food group classification was the option of eight different categories – main meals, quick meals, cold non-alcoholic beverages, hot beverages, sweet snacks, savoury snacks, fruit & veg and ‘other’.

One of the key aspects of this project was to see if there was any correlation between SES (socio-economic status) and the ‘out-of-home’ food they bought. The SES of a household was determined by what jobs they had. This indicates how much pay they had as well as what sort of education they have had. The results were as follows:

  • All SES households spent the highest percentage of their expenditure in cafés & restaurant
  • Low-SES households spent the highest percentage of their expenditure in fast-food & takeaway outlets
  • All SES households spent the lowest percentage of their expenditure in supermarkets & convenience stores.

Age groups also seemed to make a difference to the food group they bought from. For example, compared to 19-29 year olds, 12-18 year olds had a lower expenditure share on meals and hot beverages, but a higher share on non-alcoholic beverages (including soft drinks) as well as both sweet and savoury snacks. The main expenditure on meals eaten ‘out-of-home’ in terms of food groups was main meals, coming in at 42-43% of expenditures. Quick meals and hot beverages came in at 17-19% each. This was then followed by cold non-alcoholic beverages (10-12%) and sweet snacks (8-9%). Surprisingly, savoury snacks, fruit & veg and ‘other’ accounted for a minute amount of expenditure shares (<1% each).


Cornelsen, L., Berger, N., Cummins, S., Smith, R., 2019. Socio-economic patterning of expenditures on ‘out-of-home’food and non-alcoholic beverages by product and place of purchase in Britain. Soc. Sci. Med. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112361